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Editorial: Editorials Are Dangerous

What do you do when your communications director has a Jerry Maguire moment?


In case you have been living under a rock (or have something boring and responsible to do, like work), the Chicago Fire posted a lovely editorial that dealt with a Communication Director's struggle to reach out to fans that may or may not be considered abrasive.

Here is the link in case you haven't yet read it.

I went back and forth a few times upon first reading this. Don't we all think that some fans could use a bit of STFU along with their ticket purchase? Being admitted into the stadium is not the same thing as being given permission to act like a hooligan, or to yell and/or swear at people, no matter who they are. Staff, fans, and even the owners should accorded a minimal level of respect. In that aspect, I think we can all agree that this little editorial is mostly correct.

I would like to counter his assertion about proper behavior with the following explanation:


Sports are no place to expect solemn rationality. In the middle of a game, and especially right after a crushing defeat, many fans stop behaving rationally for at least a little bit. Some go farther than others in dishing out verbal judgement. Whether it is appropriate or not is beside the point. In the real world people can be idiots, especially when angry. There is some level of sympathy we can all muster at all fans who are furious in the heat of the moment (that's not to excuse particularly poor behavior though). Is yelling at the owner to pay for a striker really that ugly? You don't believe Jerry Jones has heard his share of insults in his life? Does he ask his employees to pen sermons over said insults?

But beyond his expectation of prim composure in the face of sports defeat, what's sillier is the way he turns it personal right off the bat. I don't know how this man took college courses related to communication, graduated, and then typed out this piece. Opening an essay where you tut-tut fans about how mean they were to you is a surefire way to appear like a butthurt teenager with a bully pulpit.

There are so many things wrong with that editorial that writing about it is like being the one engineer assigned to try and figure out why the Challenger blew up. Oh, and you only have one wrench and slide rule.

It's obvious this was a team effort though, not the work of a single man. It's not just Dan Lobring writing sad poems in the middle of the night and then using his posting permissions to jump the gun and embarrass the Fire. This was clearly edited, approved, and probably discussed as well.

This Was Approved?

Think about that for a second.

The Chicago Fire front office thought that this editorial would help. Or at least they must have assumed that this letter would help more than it would infuriate fans.


While at first I thought "Eh, what's the big deal?", I'm coming around to thinking it was an abysmally terrible idea. Talking down to your fans, even if you're only singling out a few of them, on the main site? That's pretty insulting. Sports teams have dealt with all sorts of fans for a century now. Can you imagine if the Philadelphia Eagles wrote this? Or the Cowboys? Or any NHL team? They would be a laughingstock for at least a few weeks, if not years.

And what do you say to the Fire fans coming out of the woodwork to ask "What fearful and unpleasant environment is this guy talking about?". If most fans don't know what you're talking about, you've missed the mark badly.

Let's raise a glass to those Fire fans who don't give a toss about what Mr. Lobring's or the FO's feelings are. It's not their job to be emotionally sensitive to a group of people paid to manage a team. It's their job to cheer on the Fire, hand out cash (hey, someone has to help pay those players' salaries) and spread the word about their great team to their city. It's unfair to call the fans out for the attitudes of a few select crazies who ruin the experience.

That editorial uses the broadest of strokes to paint its most loyal supporters, and a few throwaway lines at the bottom of the editorial kissing up to Section 8 does nothing to smooth over ruffled feathers. There are about 3 or 4 other different ways, some suggested by media types on twitter, that would have gone over much better.

The tragic part in all this is that Mr. Dan Lobring and the Fire FO have done a better job spreading the word about the Fire around town (and the entire sports landscape) more effectively than the supporters, but by humiliating themselves and their customers in the process.

If you would like to see the fans' and loyal followers' reaction, go check out Hot Time in Old Town's piece by Sean Spence or Guillermo Rivera's article on Chicago Fire Confidential. Rivera does more with his words than I can do with mine.

When your editorial that was approved and toiled over is met with this level of outrage, you're doing it wrong.